There’s a story I love about a little wave that bobbed along in the ocean enjoying the fresh air, breeze, sunshine, and rhythm of its existence. Then one day, it noticed that other waves in front of it were crashing onto the shore. “My God,” said the wave, “this is terrible. Look what’s going to happen to me!” Then along came another wave, older and more experienced. It saw the first wave looking frightened and sad, so it asked: “Why do you look so glum?” The first wave cried: “Don’t you see—we’re all going to crash and vanish! All of us will soon become nothing. It’s absolutely horrible. You don’t understand.” The second wave said, “No, you don’t understand. You see, you’re not a wave—you are part of the ocean.”
As people of God, we should realize that we’re part of something far greater than ourselves. This awareness is basic in Catholicism. We don’t just eventually crash, die, and vanish; and we don’t exist out here on our own. We’re part of a great mystery, and we’re in it together. Because of the waters of baptism, we have a purpose and a goal—even if we don’t comprehend it. It’s incomprehensible. Scientists tells us that over 95% of the universe is invisible dark matter, nebulous energy. In the cosmos of the outer space black hole, there are some 200 billion trillion stars. Over 70% of our star, earth, is water. Water is the most mysterious substance known to science—a substance upon which we are all reliant. Sacred Scripture informs us that, from the beginning, it is the symbol of both life and death. At birth, about two-thirds of the human body is water; and it remains the dominant composition within us for the rest of our lives. It makes perfect sense, then, that water is the primary symbol of Christian faith through baptism.
With some 7.8 billion people living on the earth, the 333 million of us in the United States know that we are part of something greater than ourselves, as do the 59% of earth’s residents living in Asia. Though the majority of citizens in our country are white, nearly three-quarters of earth’s population are people of color. Though most of us in America live well, nearly 80% of the world lives in substandard housing and twice the population of our country suffers malnutrition. Though most Americans are literate, much of the world is not; while nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. have college degrees, only 6% of the world’s population does. We know where we stand, and we know that we are connected. Christian baptism not only links us to all humanity, it links us to the past when disparity was far greater, to creation when original sin gave rise to the human condition, to isolation though each of us is connected and directed, to the future where existence points to salvation, and to the Mystical Body where we are in union with all that is and ever was. You see, we are not a wave; we are part of the ocean, the earth, the galaxy, the universe. We are part of God and God’s immense creation.
Dags Hammarskjold, renowned former General Secretary of the United Nations, before his plane crashed and he vanished from earth, wrote these words in his journal, later published under the title, Markings: “I don’t know who or what put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer ‘Yes’ to Someone or something and, from that hour on, I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, did have a purpose and goal.” Like the little wave that feared vanishing, we don’t understand it and we may not like it. But if we surrender ourselves to destiny we will touch our life purpose trusting that we are part of something far greater.